London Walks: Hyde Park

The first time self read The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michael Faber, was over a decade ago. She hadn’t much experience of London. Now, however, she knows London, knows its general geography, and enjoys passages like the following:

  • Since moving to the West End, Sugar has taken to crossing Hyde Park, over the Serpentine into Knightsbridge, and paying frequent visits to the two Georgian houses in Trevor Square, which may look like high-class brothels, but are in fact a public library.

The Crimson Petal and the White, p. 35

  • Follow Sugar now into the great open space, the grandiose vacancy of Regent Street — admire those overtowering honeycombs of palatial buildings stretching into the fog of artificial infinity, those thousands of identically shaped windows tier upon tier; the glassy expanse of roadway swept clear of snow; all of it is a statement of intent: a declaration that in the bright future to come, places like St. Giles and Soho, with their narrow labyrinths and tilting hovels and clammy, crumbling nooks infested with human flotsam, will be swept away, to be replaced by a new London that looks entirely like Regent Street, airy, regular and clean.

The Crimson Petal and the White, p. 43

Her last trip to London was at the tail-end of October 2017. She dropped by Hyde Park and saw:

1) the Serpentine

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2) a fabulous Pavilion

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The 2017 Serpentine Pavilion designed by architect Francis Kéré

and 3) the Prince Albert Memorial:

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Guardian’s 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time

There is very little overlap been self’s reading list and the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time by The Guardian.

Below, books on The Guardian’s list that self has read:

2. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

5. Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama

9. Dispatches, by Michael Herr

15. The Double Helix, by James D. Watson

20. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson

23. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and EB White

33. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child-care, by Dr. Benjamin Spock

42. Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain (for a course on the Literature of World War I, taught by Prof. Albert Guerard at Stanford)

44. Goodbye to All That, by Robert Graves (for a course on the Literature of World War I, taught by Prof. Albert Guerard at Stanford)

65. Roget’s Thesaurus

83. A History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon

92. The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys, via Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography of Pepys’ life

The End of LA BELLE SAUVAGE (Spoilers, Needless To Say)

p. 443:

  • The first boat had swung back. Now it smashed into the canoe again, a deathblow, and the brave little boat was broken open like an egg. Both Malcolm and Asta cried out with love.

The next book on self’s reading list is The Golden Compass. At least, she’ll give it a go.

So far, this year, she’s read three really good novels, the kind that make it into her “favorites” list: Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto; The Mandibles, by Lionel Shriver; and La Belle Sauvage. Actually, Conclave, by Robert Harris, was pretty good, too. Wow, the first third of 2018 has produced a rich harvest. That’s never happened to self before.

The last time she read a trilogy was way back 2015, when she began Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices. That was a smashing series. She spent part of that year in London, looking for Saint Bride’s and the old Blackfriars bridge. At Saint Bride’s, she chatted with a deacon who was amused that Saint Bride’s was the setting of the Shadowhunters’ London sanctuary. She was so into Victorian Steampunk that year, and remembers being mightily impressed that York had an annual Steampunk Festival.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Currently Reading: LA BELLE SAUVAGE, p. 325

Hugely enjoying Volume One (La Belle Sauvage) of Philip Pullman’s new trilogy, The Book of Dust. Love the characters, all of them. Even the villains. Kudos, Mr. Pullman.

Towards the end of the novel, a flood of Biblical proportions overwhelms Oxford, England:

“The creatures in the water . . .  I don’t mean fish neither, nor water voles; I mean the old gods. Old Father Thames. And other beings as well. There was a man with us, he saw a mermaid near Henley. The sea was so full she come right up the river, even that far from the coast, and this chap, he swore to me that if he saw the mermaid again, he’d go off with her. Well, two days later he disappeared, and chances are he did just that. I believe it, anyway.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Tweaking the Reading List, Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Spent the day trying to stay warm and dry. It’s very cold here in Mendocino. A few minutes ago, rain started to come down.

Self tried to get into Empress of the East, had high hopes, but the first chapter, Abduction, isn’t really about how Roxelana, Slave-Girl-Turned-Empress-of-the-Ottoman-Empire, was abducted. Instead, it consists of page after page of speculation about the exact spot from where she was taken. Then, a few pages of how hard it was on captives. DUH. This is dull stuff.

Luckily, self brought the next book on her reading list to Mendocino. It’s The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman. Opening sentence:

Three miles up the river Thames from the center of Oxford, some distance from where the great colleges of Jordan, Gabriel, Balliol, and two dozen others contended for mastery in the boat races, out where the city was only a collection of towers and spires in the distance over the misty levels of Port Meadow, there stood the Priory of Godstow, where the gentle nuns went about their holy business; and on the opposite bank from the priory there was an inn called the Trout.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

DARKEST HOUR: What’s Up With Joe Wright

2nd full day back in America, 2nd movie: Darkest Hour.

So dull.

Self has seen Atonement, which made her cry buckets.

Not that she expects every Joe Wright to make her cry buckets, just that she likes movies to engage her emotions and this one didn’t.

Well, self did feel bad for the 4,000 British troops at Calais who were ordered to attack the advancing Germans, all to enable the main body of the British army to be evacuated from Dunkirk (almost 300,000 men)

Perhaps self was in a mood because she did not get to see I, Tonya.

Instead she got to watch Gary Oldman do Winston Churchill and his portrayal was rather baffling. Self had no idea that Churchill was such a bumbling, distracted man, whose only skill apparently was a penchant for rousing words and an ability to get the pulse of the British people.

He was a populist! Who would have thought!

The scene in the underground was very, very contrived.

Two stars, maybe?

Kudos nevertheless to Stephen Dillane for making her completely forget Stannis Baratheon in his portrayal of Churchill antagonist Viscount Halifax, and to Samuel West for still being Samuel West, and to Lily James for performing the role of ingenue/typist so flawlessly.

Someone started coughing loud in the last half hour or so of the movie, and a young woman yelled, from way across the theatre: Hey, would you do your coughing outside?

Which surprised self exceedingly because she didn’t notice any young people in the audience before the lights went down. But it is a very good thing to know that young people are interested in watching this movie that has absolutely no battle scenes (i.e.,  more spittle than blood).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: 6 Letters Starts With the Letter ‘V’

Happy to participate in another of Cee Neuner’s Fun Foto Challenges.

This week’s is: A SIX-LETTER WORD THAT STARTS WITH THE LETTER ‘V’

Self’s word is VOLUMES.

Self visited the British Library for the first time on 31 December 2017. There was a Harry Potter exhibit, but that was sold out. She was able to get on another tour, however, and had a very stimulating introduction to the library holdings.

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George V donated his entire library to the British Library. Here’s how the volumes are displayed.

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Self’s silhouette can be seen in this picture. It was Dec. 31, 2017, around noon.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More 2017 Favorites: Big Year

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Evening, Trafalgar Square, First Sunday of March 2017

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Steep Hillside, One Cow: Albion, California, New Year’s 2017

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Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA: January 2017

 

Transformation: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 22 November 2017

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is TRANSFORMATION.

There are many ways self could choose to interpret that challenge. She could show nature and the changing seasons. She could show people in the process of transforming (costumes, aging, and so forth).

For now, she chooses to focus on the transformation of physical space. The first picture is London’s Chinatown in late October. The second is the Blue Room in Paradiso in Cork.

In the first picture, the Chinese lanterns add a whole different aspect to the street.

In the second, it’s the shadows cast by a floor lamp that transform a simple room into a place of mystery.

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Chinatown, London: Last Week of October 2017

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Paradiso, Cork: Early November, 2017

Other interpretations:

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Saturday: “Trenarren, Autumn 1941”

An excerpt from Trenarren, Autumn 1941

by A. L. Rowse

The thunder-green sea
Brings nearer the Island
On which stood the chapel
Of Michael the Archangel.

Smoke from a chimney
In the V-shaped valley,
The voices of children,
A robin on the bough:

Familiar and cheerful
Domestic noises
Speak of contentment
About me now.

But what is to come?
I ask myself, waiting
In this burial-place
Of my ancient people.


from A. L. Rowse’s collection Poems, Chiefly Cornish (London: Faber and Faber), dedicated to Edward Sackville West, “in our common passion for Cornwall”

Stay tuned.

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